December 4, 2018

YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY | Rock Island, Illinois Office

By Cristina Vital
Social Security Manager
Rock Island Social Security Office


Disability is something most people don’t like to think about, but the chances that you’ll become disabled probably are greater than you realize. Studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 1-in-4 chance of becoming disabled before reaching full retirement age.

Social Security pays disability benefits through two programs:

  • The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and;
  • The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

Social Security Disability Insurance is funded through payroll taxes. Social Security Disability Insurance recipients have worked for years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of Social Security taxes – either FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) for employees or SECA (Self-Employment Contributions Act) for the self-employed.

SSI is a means-tested program, meaning it has nothing to do with work history, but provides payments to people with disabilities who have low income and few resources. Social Security manages the program, but SSI is not paid for by Social Security taxes. Social Security pays benefits to people who can’t work because they have a medical condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death. Federal law requires this very strict definition of disability. While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not.

It’s important that you know which benefits you may be qualified to receive. You can read more about Social Security Disability Insurance at and more about SSI at

When you apply for either program, we’ll collect medical and other information from you and make a decision about whether or not you meet Social Security’s definition of disability. In addition to meeting our definition of disability, you must have worked long enough — and recently enough — under Social Security to qualify for SSDI benefits.

The amount needed for a work credit changes from year to year. In 2018, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,320 in wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $5,280, you’ve earned your four credits for the year. In 2019, you earn one credit for each $1,360 in wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $5,440, you’ve earned your four credits for the year.

To see if you meet the requirements for disability benefits, visit

Social Security covers millions of people, including children, wounded warriors, and people who are chronically ill. And this is just a part of what we do. Remember, you can also apply for retirement, spouse’s, Medicare, or disability benefits online at


Each year we announce the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Usually, there is an increase in the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit amount people receive each month, starting the following January. Law requires that federal benefit rates increase when the cost of living rises, as measured by the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

The CPI-W rises when prices increase for the things the average consumer buys. This means that when prices for goods and services we purchase become more expensive, on average, the COLA increases benefits and helps beneficiaries keep up with the changing cost of living.

More than 67 million Americans will see a 2.8 percent increase in their Social Security and SSI benefits in 2019.

January 2019 marks other changes based on the increase in the national average wage index. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security payroll tax, as well as the retirement earnings test exempt amount, will change in 2019.

Want to know your new benefit amount as soon as possible? In December 2018, we will post Social Security COLA notices online for retirement, survivors, and disability beneficiaries who have a my Social Security account. You will be able to view and save these COLA notices securely via the Message Center inside my Social Security.

Be the first to know! Sign up for or log in to your personal my Social Security account today at Choose email or text under “Message Center Preferences” to receive courtesy notifications so you won’t miss your electronic COLA notice!

This year, even if you access your COLA notice online, you will still receive your COLA notice by mail. In the future, you will be able to choose whether you receive your notice online instead of on paper. Online notices will not be available to representative payees, individuals with foreign mailing addresses, or those who pay higher Medicare premiums due to their income. We plan to expand the availability of COLA notices to additional online customers in the future.

More information about the 2019 COLA is available at

You can also read our publication about the annual cost-of-living adjustment at

Filed Under: Finance, Retirement